It’s always a lot of fun to see what you can learn about your favorite characters through what they dress up as for Halloween. In this week’s Dr. Ken, we learn that Damona loves Beyonce, Julie is a Game of Thrones fan (and winner of the Dr. Ken costume contest), Ken is tone deaf (not a surprise), and Clark wears couple costumes with an invisible friend (I’m assuming Keith is the ketchup to his mustard). The kids even get in on the fun with Molly dressing up as a nurse and Dave as Dr. Frankenstein (because, why be the monster when you can be the man who played god).
Halloween turns out to be an extra special day for the Park family as the day that Ken proposed to Allison 20 years ago. However, we learn that it wasn’t special in a sweet romantic way, Ken totally botched his proposal, and although they went and got married anyways, it remains a sore spot as they’ve never had a romantic proposal story to tell. So as a way to create a better story, Ken decides to re-propose to Allison during their annual Halloween date.
Meanwhile back at Welltopia, Pat accidently eats a prescription narcotic lollipop off of Julie’s desk, and Damona and Julie spend the episode trying to deal with (and exploit) their boss as he’s tripping balls. Now, while it was fun to watch the hijinks ensue, it was a little concerning that it was hard to distinguish the “high Pat” in this episode with the Pat that tried to shoot himself with a nail gun a few episodes past. Not to say that maybe Pat’s just always on drugs, but it seems to be more of a symptom of the way the character is written to just be a cartoon character/joke machine (a complaint I’ve made before).
The Park kids get their own sub-plot in this episode as well, with Molly and Dave fixing their dad’s treasured skeleton model Gary after accidently breaking it en-route to a party (silly Gary, even skeletons need to wear seatbelts). It was a sweet couple of scenes that demonstrate the adorable chemistry between the two siblings, and it was nice to see non-dumpy Dave again, I hope he stays around.
In the end, Ken’s new proposal plan runs into a few snags, but the result is one of Dr. Ken’s first emotionally resonant scenes. Anyone who’s seen the excellent independent movie Advantageous (on Netflix now) knows that Ken Jeong is absolutely capable of nailing a scene heavy with emotion, and while his tearful recap of his life together with Allison may be a little over the top, he sells it like no other and aims directly for the feels. For a show where the jokes never land 100%, this scene absolutely got to me, and I remain optimistic of the future potential of this show.
One of the things that executive producer Melvin Mar said that he was most looking forward to this season at CAAMFest San Jose last month were the holiday episodes. Since the first season began as a mid-season replacement, the show never got a chance to do any special episodes of the kind. That’s what made this week’s episode very special, it was the very first holiday storyline for Fresh Off the Boat, and it really was an episode of firsts: Louis’ first Halloween in the suburbs, Eddie’s first “normal” trick-or-treating experience, and Jessica’s first restored house since partnering up with her mother-in-law and Honey. However, as it tends to be the case when it comes to the Huang family, things never quite go according to plan.
Louis is psyched for his family’s first experience of celebrating Halloween since their move from Washington, D.C. However, he is disappointed when his youngest son Evan informs him of how they live on a “dead street”… and no, contrary to Louis’ original assumption, it has nothing to do with the walking dead or anything like that. As Evan explains, they live on a street where trick-or-treaters rarely visit. Unwilling to miss out on his first suburban Halloween, Louis guides everyone with preparing their street for the ultimate trick-or-treating experience (and all in a total of only five hours).
Meanwhile, Jessica- who has never been fond of Halloween as it gives kids an excuse to behave badly- has her hands unexpectedly full when her newly restored house is in danger of being attacked by a group of obnoxious teenage boys. She at first tries to get them preemptively arrested for something they planned to do. When that back fired, along with a failed attempt at recruiting her family to help, Jessica makes it her mission to protect the house at all costs.
While Halloween can be seen as a children’s holiday, this episode of Fresh Off the Boat focused more on Louis and Jessica’s experiences. Like in the last episode “The Fall Ball,” Louis’ obsession with American culture and fulfilling the American Dream was on display in full force. While it may have seemed corny when he made that heartfelt speech about bringing the Halloween spirit to their neck of the woods (with lines stolen from Field of Dreams), it makes sense when we remember where Louis is coming from: He’s a man who immigrated from Taiwan and has been working from the ground up for his family to be as successful and comfortable as any other American family.
Meanwhile for Jessica, her story highlights the darker side of Halloween; the side that adults may face when their property becomes a potential target for intrusion and vandalism. While she may seem like her usual wet blanket self, she does have a valid point about how Halloween is a time to be wary of pranks. The different outlooks from the two Huang parents is part of what make Fresh Off the Boat very unique; as it continues to expose different layers of common American traditions from the Huang’s Asian American experiences.
It was also fun seeing Halloween celebrated on Fresh Off the Boat; especially when it came to the costumes (though I confess to looking up who was dressed as who on Angry Asian Man’s blog post about the episode, for I didn’t recognize most of them). Despite her not having a big role in this episode, let’s please take a minute and zoom in on Grandma’s Garfield costume, for she looks incredibly badass in it!
Lastly, I also wanted to note Nicole’s return in this episode, for I was certainly surprised to see her (and that Eddie actually had enough dignity to talk to her without giving her a death stare). In a way, I can see her appearance making sense, not only because she and Eddie attend the same school, but also because his mom is friends with her stepmom. I wonder what role she will play from here on out?
On last Friday’s episode of Dr. Ken, Hong Kong detective Wei Shen goes undercover into the seedy underbelly of California’s HMOs on his most dangerous mission yet… and if you understood that reference, then we can be best friends! Actually, in this episode we get our first proper guest star in Will Yun Lee’s Dr. Kevin O’Connell, a plastic surgeon, Korean adoptee, and Allison Park’s ex from med school. He’s also smoking hot and charming, which immediately sets off Ken’s more petty tendencies.
Much of the episode is spent exploring the aftermath of Ken discovering that his wife’s ex-boyfriend is essentially a “Korean Channing Tatum.” To make matters worse, Dr. O’Connell also immediately charms Ken’s co-workers and his kids, often by providing the attention that he’s been too self-centered to give himself. Everyone’s smitten by the perfect visiting doctor, except for Allison, who never told her husband about what her ex looked like because of his jealous nature.
It all comes to a head at the Welltopia Employee Banquet, where Ken is set to provide a “comedy” routine for entertainment, AND where Kevin is set to be the guest of honor. His jealousy and insecurity reaching a breaking point, Ken decides that Kevin will be the topic of his “biting satirical comedy” and proceeds craft a vicious roast of the child-saving, scar healing plastic surgeon. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t go over well at first, but he pulls through thanks to some support from his missus.
The B plot in this episode involves Damona (one of the nurses on Ken’s team) encouraging Dr. Julie Dobbs (one of the doctors on Ken’s team), to be more open to socializing with colleagues. It was nice to get some more time with these two characters, especially Julie (Kate Sises continues to be the secret comedic weapon of the hospital scenes). Although not much character building actually took place (Demona was still sassy and Julie was still socially sheltered), both characters were able to get some good jokes in.
The high points for this episode came from the interactions between Ken and Allison. The fight between the couple after Ken brings Kevin home was an excellent showcase of Suzy Nakamura and Ken Jeong’s chemistry. The family scenes of Dr. Ken remain the most consistently funny, with Molly also continuing to nail her scenes. However, little bro Dave remains the weakest link in the Park family so far, suffering from a lack of characterization since that first episode (where did that artsy kid who didn’t give a crap about what everyone thought go?).
The other bright spot was Will Yun Lee as Dr. Kevin O’Connell. It was pretty awesome to see a portrayal of a masculine Asian dude on TV outside of Hawaii Five-O (where Lee also moonlights as a guest star) where he wasn’t some triad member or henchman, but a normal doctor guy who happens to be really good looking. Also admirable was how the only joke made about his “Asian-ness” was the initial misunderstanding about his name. We didn’t hear any dim-sum euphemisms about his sexy bits, or dwell on the fact that he was adopted. To me, that screamed progress! One of Dr. Ken’s strengths has been the portrayal of its characters as just regular people, despite being anything but in the world of network television.
Dr.Ken was picked up for a full season last week thanks to its strong performance in a tough Friday time slot. Personally, while I’m happy that the show was picked up (more stuff to write about!) I’m still waiting for the episode where the show finds itself and really makes a statement for that second season. With the way the show’s been improving since the pilot, here’s hoping that moment isn’t far off!
Maybe it’s the rep sweats talking, but I definitely wouldn’t be following a show like Dr. Ken if it wasn’t starring an Asian American family. I’ve mentioned on the KollabCast, the official podcast of Kollaboration that I also host (shameless plug), that in the “Must See TV” days, I was always more of a fan of Scrubs over Friends, and come to think of it, I haven’t really actively watched a multi-camera sitcom in a very long time. All that is to say while Dr. Ken isn’t my “style” of show, I have been enjoying following it, if only for the potential of what this show can become. But more on that after the summary!
The main story line of this episode was all about Dr. Ken’s relationship with his team. When confronted with the fact that he’s become out-of-touch since ascending to senior staff, Ken attempts to negotiate on their behalf to get them out of the mandatory Saturday shifts mandated by his boss Pat. Half listening, Pat invites Ken over to his Yacht for dinner to discuss further, while really having his own selfish intentions for the meeting. Ken being unable to ‘read the room’ is not new territory, after his misunderstanding with Nurse Clark last episode, but it was interesting to see him pitted one-on-one with Pat for the first time and for him to learn how out-of-touch a “rich guy on a yacht” can really get.
Ken’s interactions at work are still some of the most awkward scenes in the show. You can feel that his co-workers are supposed to be friends, but everyone’s too busy throwing zingers that it’s hard to see it. While there’s been some character development over the last few episodes, the crew right now is still just a collection of sitcom archetypes (the sassy lady, the teacher’s pet, the one-sided bff) constantly throwing shade at each other and at Ken. Ken’s scene with Pat on the yacht is significant, because it seemed to slow the pacing down to expose some genuine character moments. Most of it is from Ken, who we see as a conscientious doctor. Pat on the other hand is still very much a cartoon character.
While Ken is out fighting on behalf of his crew at work, the Parks at home are faced with another challenge, Dave’s new unfortunate nickname from school, “Clompers.” It was fun to see the roles of the parents reversed from the pilot, with Ken being the passive dad and Allison becoming the overprotective mom (with an obvious chip on her shoulder). It was Molly, however, that stole the show as being the only member of the family with a plan (and kudos on her for understanding her particular set of skills also had a worth). I was kind of bummed that we never got to see her “Olivia Pope” her brother’s problems away, but I hope they continue this story line of Molly being the only rational member of the family.
All in all, it was a solid episode of Dr. Ken, which seems to be slowly catching it’s stride. Luckily, with its solid ratings performance, it might actually get the chance to find its footing despite the critical reviews, and I absolutely hope it does. Like I mentioned in the intro, I was a huge fan of Scrubs, and shows about doctors are rife with opportunities for emotional story arcs. Being a doctor is hard, and though we’re catching Dr. Ken after his rigorous life as an intern and resident, there’s probably going to be future episodes where Ken brings the stresses of having to make tough diagnoses home. I believe that’s when we’ll see what this show is really capable of.
It’s not unusual for an Asian household to be multi-generational. While it varies from household to household, living with extended family is a lot more common in Asian American families. Having three generations living under one roof can be pretty hectic; especially when members of different generations are either trying to help another out, or are butting heads. In this week’s episode of Fresh Off the Boat, we get a little taste of both.
Jessica is in desperate need of a loan in order to strengthen her career as a real estate agent by going into house flipping. Conveniently, Grandma Huang’s late boyfriend (who, for some reason, everyone knew about except for her) left money for her in his will. Seeing an opportunity to get the money she needs, Jessica – who’s always had stiff relationship with her mother-in-law – attempts to get on her good side. Not one to be fooled, Grandma lays down some harsh truths about Jessica’s attitude that causes her to stop and re-evaluate her motives and relationship with her.
Meanwhile, the Fall Ball at Eddie’s school is coming up, and Louis is more psyched for his eldest’s first school dance than Eddie himself. Having never been to a school dance himself, all he knows about them are from re-watching the John Hughes classic, Pretty in Pink, over and over again, back when he worked at a New Jersey pizza savers factory with Jeremy Lin (er, I mean, Chau). However, when he sees how ill prepared Eddie and his friends are for the dance (cue his horrified expression as they demonstrate their dance to Shaggy’s “Boombastic”), Louis takes matters into his own hands as he helps the boys get ready.
I think it’s safe to say that this was one of my favorite episodes so far this season, and while there are several reasons that come to mind, the main aspect I enjoyed was really the character development exhibited in the episode.
Grandma Huang has always been a fan favorite with her funny one-liners and just generally being awesome. In this episode however, we began to see and learn more about her, and that especially goes for the scene where she calls Jessica out on her scheme to get her money. It’s a genuinely interesting direction the episode took with her, though I have to say that her remark about white people being the cruelest race went a little too far, even for her.
I got to see this episode screened in advance at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum’s Hella Asians on TV event last week. During the panel discussion afterwards, comedian Jenny Yang pointed out that the scene between Jessica and Grandma Huang proved just how revolutionary Fresh Off the Boat is as a TV show starring an Asian American family. She discussed how incredible it was to see a conversation on an American sitcom conducted entirely in Mandarin – and that the one Mandarin line where subtitles didn’t show up for was when Grandma calls out Jessica on being cold-hearted. That is surely something you hardly ever see otherwise from other family sitcoms.
The other character that I felt got to develop more this episode was Eddie. After encountering Allison (the flute-playing girl from the end of the second episode), he developed a new crush on her. While he’s eager to pursue her, his insecurities show when he reveals to Louis how he doesn’t want to go through heartbreak again. It’s a sign that he’s growing up, and it’s a clever storyline to follow as we continue to watch Eddie transition into adolescence.
Overall, it was a fun episode of Fresh Off the Boat that continued its streak of NBA guest stars with a cameo from Jeremy Lin, as well as its ongoing effective 90’s throwbacks (remember frosted tips anyone?). Also, congratulations to the cast and crew of Fresh Off the Boat, for it has recently been announced that the show has been given a full season order!
Please note that Fresh Off the Boat will not be on next Tuesday, but be sure to tune in the week after that.
Being falsely accused and arrested for attempted murder on his 18th birthday may have been a blessing in disguise for actor/dancer Lawrence Kao—it solidified his pursuit in acting.
Born and raised in Hacienda Heights, this California native has been known in the dance scene on America’s Best Dance Crew with Kaba Modern and his time now with The Kinjaz. However, he can be seen more often pursuing his primary passion: acting. He’s appeared on shows like Hawaii 5-0, The Walking Dead, and soon—the CW’s supernatural drama The Originals. Kollaboration recently had the opportunity to sit down with him as he talked about Kinjaz, his role on The Originals, and his pursuit of the craft.
The Kinjaz were just announced to perform at Kollaboration Star next month in Los Angeles as special guest performers—How did you get involved with Kinjaz? It all stems from me doing Kaba Modern in college. All our group of friends are dancers—Mike Song, Anthony Lee—he was on CADC—we were all friends and stuff. They’ve always wanted to create a group.
Kinjaz competed on America’s Best Dance Crew‘s comeback. What was it like sitting on the sidelines this time? Dude, I thought it was awesome because, obviously, I had to do nothing. All I had to do was watch and support. These guys are guys I grew up with for a very long time, so it’s awesome to see them on such a big stage at the level they are at now knowing how we used to be when we were younger. It helps me appreciate it a lot and all the hard work they’re putting into it not just for themselves but for the whole team in general.
Has your dance background helped in the development of your acting career? It’s funny—after ABDC and after the show—I started going to auditions because the dance stuff was done now. But I had ABDC on my resume—and it was so popular at the time. At these acting auditions they were telling me to dance. So it was like “oh can you dance for us!” So then I took it off my resume. I set it aside because I felt like at that time, I didn’t want to be just known for dance. I had a really weird relationship with dance right after [ABDC.] I didn’t really enjoy doing it. I mean, I had a good time, but I didn’t really—but looking back at it now, I should have appreciated it more. But at that time, I was like “F— this shit—I want to focus my attention on doing acting” when I could have used dance to propel me toward bigger things. I feel like I had to separate it a bit, so I could go back to [dance.] So now [dance] is so cool. I still dance with Kinjaz.
What made you decide to pursue acting? It’s a crazy story. So in Senior year [of high school], we were doing a Shakespeare play—Midsummer Night’s Dream—I was playing Lysander. We were doing previews for the English classes just so people can go and watch the show. During one of the previews, I get arrested in school. They take me to jail, and it’s my 18th birthday. I’m suppose to do this show at night, but I’m in jail for over 3 days…and what [the police] said I did was attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon. So I’m trippin’ out. They’re telling me I’m going to be there for 40 years minimum. So that whole week, I was thinking: “What do I want to do with my life?”
But by the end of the week—for some reason—they let me go, and I got to go back to school. It was the closing night of my performance, and the director’s like “Hey, do you still remember your lines?” So I do the play and I’m on stage, and I’m like “Aw, man, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.” Because I’ve been thinking about it that whole week. I changed my major [to drama] and went to UC Irvine. I did some main stage shows at UCI—still loved it. I knew that after I graduated, it was still something I wanted to do. Dance obviously took over for a little bit. I love dancing—it’s still a passion of mine—but it was never as strong as my passion for acting.
Did they even find the guy who committed the crime? They didn’t even find the guy. I don’t even know what the story was; there was a couple stories as to why I was arrested. The people who got really messed up pointed me out in a yearbook. Obviously, it wasn’t me. It was definitely a blessing in disguise—it really solidified what I wanted to do. I feel like knowing that at such a young age is so powerful.
You were recently cast on the CW’s Vampire Diaries spinoff The Originals as Van Nguyen. What can you tell me about your character? I’m a witch. And something happens. And I get pissed. So far, he’s been pretty ruthless and stubborn as to what he wants to accomplish in terms of revenge. He doesn’t want to get involved with what’s going on in the quarters, but because of certain situations, he feels like he’s forced to and he has to. I feel like he’s a very passionate character—he really believes in the things he believes in.
He’s sort of like your co-star’s character, Vincent (Yusuf Gatewood), in that sense. Yeah, he’s sort of pushed toward that direction. He has no choice but to do that. I feel like once he gets that [goal], “It’s like alright, things are good again.” But then I feel like it’ll be him having to do more things. Obviously he’s pissed. Like he wants justice for what’s been wronged to him and his people.
What’s it like playing a supernatural character? It’s fun. I love supernatural things. You get to use your imagination more. I feel like it’s still such a young character too—like early 20’s. I still think they think I’m pretty young, or I feel like the cast does when I’m walking around and talking about stuff. It’s such a roller coaster though. I never know how long my characters are going to last, so I’m sort of hanging on a string.
According to your social media, you’ve worked with Danielle Campbell (Davina) and Yusuf Gatewood (Vincent). How was it working with them? They’re awesome. It’s just fun. Everyone is just super professional. Everyone’s on top of their game. It’s just fun working with a great cast and great crew. Everyone’s so nice and hospitable.
Have you watched the show? I started watching it recently—maybe last month. I’m in the middle of the second season. I like it a lot. At first, I was like “oh man, this is going to be like a teen TV show.” But after a couple episodes, I was like “Wow, this is really good.” The actors are actually really damn good—That made me excited. Joseph Morgan is awesome. The sister (Claire Holt)—she’s awesome too.
Do you have any future projects lined up? I’ve been asked to audition for a couple plays. There’s also a film I shot 5 years ago—it’s in post right now finally. I just ADR’d it maybe two months ago. It’s taken a while. But it’s a cool little movie. It’s a romantic comedy with me and some girl. I’m just waiting for it to come out.
You also had a strong YouTube background too. Can you tell me about that and are you still making online content? Yeah, like 2 years ago when I was not booking anything—I was like, oh I got to make my own original content. I have a lot of dancer friends that choreograph a lot, and they’re always able to show what they can do [online]. I had a strong desire for people to see my storytelling capabilities and just me being able to act. That was fun. It lasted for about a year. I used to put stuff up constantly, and then I got busy, which is cool. But I still want to go back to YouTube doing stuff and creating content. But right now it’s just focusing on other things that are in the way or are happening right now.
For more of Lawrence Kao, follow him at @iamlawrencekao on Twitter and Instagram.
Also, be sure to catch his debut as Van the witch on The Originals this Thursday, October 15 at 9pm ET/8pm CT on the CW.
Growing up as an Asian-American, I never understood why my parents barely gave me any positive reinforcement, but as I got older and learned more about my parents and my culture, I was able to slowly connect the dots. You see, Vietnamese parents don’t usually praise their children’s achievements because don’t want their kids to stop being humble and striving to do better. Instead, they show their support by providing shelter, food, clothes, college tuition, and everything else to ensure that I could keep achieving. This cultural “clash” with my “American” upbringing was the source of many a conflict with my parents, which is why I was glad to see that last Friday’s episode of Dr. Ken was all about perceptions and misunderstanding (that old sitcom standby), with a slight Asian twist.
Dr. Ken’s parents are in town, which is an event dreaded by the whole family, especially his wife Allison. Ken’s promise to be a buffer between her and his emotionless parents are dashed as his non-reaction to friend and co-worker Clark’s announcement of becoming a registered nurse led to a series of event that accidentally resulted in Ken being forced to attend “Physician Sensitivity Training,” (or “DMV for doctors”). Fortunately, Ken eventually realizes during the seminar how Clark must have felt when he didn’t receive any recognition for his achievement and immediately apologized to his “work husband.”
While everything was going down at the hospital, Allison was facing her own “Korean Mt. Rushmore.” Throughout her marriage with Ken, she always believed that his parents didn’t think she was good enough for their “golden boy, the successful doctor”. However, after she finally confronts them, she learns that they actually do like her and that although Ken might be a doctor, his humility needs some work. In fact, sometimes they actually think that Ken might not be good enough for her.
This episode’s plot had two parallel lines. With Ken and his parents on one side, withholding their emotions, and Clark and Allison on the other, not knowing how to process that. Like with my own experiences, Allison’s American upbringing clashed with Ken’s parent’s Asian point of view, and she was not able to understand her in-laws true feelings toward her. But when everything is put out into the open, Ken’s parents finally understood why their daughter in-law always acts awkward around them, and become more open with her. Ken, once again, showed us that he was capable of learning from his mistakes, and Clark learns that while Ken might not give praises freely, he does, in fact, respect him.
I think we can all agree that relationships are the most important things in life, regardless of our ethnicities. Without proper communication, misunderstandings are bound to rise. If each individual can yield a little to one another, be more patient, and be honest to one another when there is an issue, relationships don’t have to be so hard. “The Seminar” portrayed this perfectly.
For those who may not know, buying a car is serious business in an Asian family. One must go into the dealership with their game face on, ready to take advantage of all the deals and not get taken advantage of in the process. Mentally, it’s like entering the Hunger Games, only not life-threatening (and less blood). This week’s episode of Fresh off the Boat explores high stakes adventure through the eyes of the heads of the Huang household.
In honor of their 12th wedding anniversary, Louis recreates the day he and Jessica got married by bringing her to a car dealership, Shaquille O’Neal Motors specifically, to pick out a second car (which they desperately need). Despite the thoughtful gesture, Jessica is uneasy about buying a new car; not so much out of frugality, but because as a proud, top notch bargainer, her confidence was shaken when they bought their first car and she accidently missed out on a deal for free floor mats. Luckily, Louis brings Jessica back to her senses and she regains her mojo to finally go back and get a good deal on a new car. Their coordinated tactics through the gauntlet of “top managers” sent to negotiate with them is eventually rewarded with a face to face with the dealership’s real top manager, the eponymous Shaq himself.
Meanwhile, Eddie and his brothers have their eyes on a waterslide that’s shaped like a hot dog (appropriately called the Hot Dogger) but they can’t afford to buy it themselves. After learning from his neighbors that his brother Evan’s limited edition Beanie Babies are worth some real cash, dollar signs appear in his eyes as he decides to use this new development to buy the waterslide. Although he may have missed a crucial step in the process and is later met with negative consequences when Evan finds out what he’s done.
This is the first episode of my memory where it was really about the relationship between Louis and Jessica. Their personalities may be anything but alike, but this episode showed how they really are on the same team. Randall Park and Constance Wu have such great chemistry together, their comedic timing and acting are on point as they naturally bounce off each other, especially in the negotiation scenes at the dealership.
This was also the first time where we see the Huang brothers together throughout a whole episode. It was nice to see all three of them in a storyline for once. Similar to Park and Wu’s performance, their scenes in this episode gave me a good look at how Hudson Yang, Forrest Wheeler and Ian Chen perform together and I have to say, they really do a convincing job as onscreen brothers.
Finally, I really liked O’Neal’s guest appearance as himself and I thought how he was incorporated into the storyline as the manager of his own car dealership was very clever. While he is not the first NBA star to appear on Fresh off the Boat, he still made a big impression (pun intended) in the two scenes he appeared in with a distinctive camera presence and impeccable comic timing. Also, this might be stating the obvious but I have to say: That computer Shaq was typing at looked tiny compared to him. My awareness for just how tall this man is popped out even more when he and Jessica stood up to shake hands on the car deal. I swear she looked like a small girl from the back of her head compared to him.
Another great outing for this show, until next week!
Rich in action and featuring snake-like vampires, From Dusk Till Dawn may be one of the more racially nuanced series in television. Wait a minute—Did I say From Dusk Till Dawn? As in the series based on the 1996 Quentin Tarantino-Robert Rodriguez b-horror action film? Yes, you read that right!
From Robert Rodriguez’s El Rey Network, From Dusk Till Dawn is a supernatural crime series about two wanted criminals, brothers Seth and Richie Gecko (played with magnificent chemistry by DJ Cotrona and Zane Holtz) who kidnap the Fuller family and use their RV to help them escape into Mexico. Chaos ensues as they are hunted down by local law enforcer Ranger Freddie Gonzalez (Jesse Garcia) and are manipulated by the supernatural forces tied to the Mexican cartel.
With a strong number of Latino creatives in front and behind the camera, From Dusk Till Dawn has proven itself as one of the more racially nuanced shows in mainstream media. The television landscape is getting more diverse, and while that landscape is not perfect, it is progressively better. After all,Viola Davis became the first black woman to win Best Actress in a Drama Series in all of Emmy’s 67-year history. Shows like FOX’s Empire and CW’s Jane the Virgin, both dominated by a strong Black and Latino cast respectively, are earning nominations and awards. Meanwhile, ABC Network has 18 Asian series regulars this season and where three of their shows—Fresh Off the Boat, Dr. Ken, and Quantico—have one or more Asian lead.
As a Vietnamese-American, I cling to every occurrence of Asian-American representation I see. I yearn to see more diverse faces in mainstream media because, like Jane the Virgin’s Gina Rodriguez said in the Washington Post, “that lack of visibility, that lack of relatability, really made me feel kind of alone in this world. It really made me feel a certain way about myself, about beauty, what I could and could not be.” It’s why I appreciate shows like From Dusk Till Dawn having such a diverse cast. But more importantly, I appreciate the fact these characters aren’t fully defined by their race or ethnicity. As From Dusk Till Dawn director Joe Menendez told Nerd Reactor, their stories are universal, but it’s the specific elements that make their perspectives unique.
With From Dusk Till Dawn, I can’t help but pay particular attention to Scott Fuller, the only Asian-American character in the main cast. Who, much to my surprise, resonated with me much more than I initially realized.
In the series, Scott (played by Brandon Soo Hoo) is the teenage son to Jacob Fuller (Robert Patrick) and the younger brother to Kate Fuller (Madison Davenport), having been adopted into the family at the age of seven from China. However, Scott is not simply a prop for the other characters, and the show is not afraid to delve into his specific experiences as an Asian-American transracial adoptee.
Warning: Minor spoilers for From Dusk Till Dawn season 2, episode 5 ‘Bondage.’
Season 2, episode 5 marked a major development with Scott. In an emotional moment to reconnect with him, Kate confesses she resented him when he joined their family, and the heartbreaking truth that Kate’s resentment was rooted in his foreign-ness. She even admits that she was the reason everyone called him Scott instead of his birth name: Jian Jun. But it’s not that she couldn’t pronounce his name—she didn’t want to learn how to pronounce his name.
This aspect of Scott’s story resonated strongly with me, reminding me much of The Improper Bostonian’s interview with Orange is the New Black actress Uzo Aduba who as a child “asked [her] mother if [she] could be called Zoe” because “nobody ever knew how to pronounce [her] name.” The story is a rarity to see and hear on American television. From Dusk Till Dawn may be a fun supernatural action show, but this pivotal moment between Kate and Scott, took me multiple days to emotionally unload.
I was born with a Western name, while my Vietnamese surname is easy to read and pronounce. My surname isn’t Western, but it is simple and ambiguous enough that I’m rarely confronted about the foreign-ness of it. However my Vietnam-born refugee mother did give me a Vietnamese name: Thục Yên. Unlike my surname, it’s not as easy on the Western tongue, but I respond to its call just as quickly as if it was on my birth certificate. My western name was chosen for me by my mom, and the thought doesn’t escape me that she did so because it would be easier for me to assimilate in the New World.
This is why I’m further enraptured by the show’s awareness. It doesn’t necessarily smear Kate as the antagonist of their relationship, but instead dives into the complexities of it. For Kate, her brother’s birth name was too different—he was too different, and that was bad. So she changed his name. As author David S. Slawson stated, “names are an important key to what society values. Anthropologists recognize naming as ‘one of the chief methods for imposing order on perception.” Even though Kate was a child (and she’s aware that she was), she’s directly confronting her mistakes by acknowledging the consequences of her actions and how it affected her brother.
We cater to the Western ear, and rarely is it the other way around. As Uzo Aduba’s mother once told her: “If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky, they can learn how to say Uzoamaka.” Learning how to pronounce someone’s name is the simplest form of respect and acknowledgement.
So it’s powerfully symbolic when Kate calls Scott by his birth name, Jian Jun, and tells him she loves him. In the words of philosopher Henry David Thoreau, it’s her “recognition of the individual to whom it belongs.” It’s like she’s giving back what she stripped of him—his identity—and truly accepting him for who and what Scott is and everything else that comes with it.
In the framework of From Dusk Till Dawn, names have a lot of power. They represent who we are, they are tools to help empower, and they are weapons to control. The name Scott rids Jian Jun of his foreign-ness just as the name Jesica was given to me to preemptively cater to the Canadians and American around us. Names are the core of our identity, defining our relationships to ourselves, to the people and the world around us, because as Thoreau wrote, “he [or she] who can pronounce my name aright, he [or she] can call me, and is entitled to my love and service.”
Featured Image: Brandon Soo Hoo as Scott Fuller From the El Rey Network Original “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series” Photography: Robert Rodriguez. Photo Courtesy El Rey Network (c) 2014 Dusk Productions LLC. All rights reserved.
The series premiere of Dr. Ken opens with a patient disagreeing with Dr. Kendrick Park (Ken Jeong) with his recommendation for a colonoscopy, insisting that “it’s hemorrhoids” based on his own research on WebMD. Dr. Park’s resulting sarcastic mocking causes the patient to angrily storm out of the clinic, setting the stage for ABC’s new family comedy.
Dr. Ken is the second family sitcom this season, and third show overall, featuring an all Asian-American family on American network television. It is filmed in multi-camera with a laugh track as opposed to Fresh Off the Boat’s single camera show, and is in many ways a more traditional family sitcom. Friday night’s premiere offered light-hearted humor, allowing the audience to recognize the show’s intention in portraying its characters as a normal sitcom family.
There were some familiar comedic faces on-screen, such as Tisha Campbell-Martin (Martin, My Wife and Kids, Rita Rocks), and Suzy Nakamura (Go On, The Goldbergs), as well as new ones, both of which are a delight to watch.
The “Pilot” featured a classic sitcom plot of an overprotective father overreacting to a child’s newfound freedom, but the real goal of this episode was to introduce us to the Park family and their relationship dynamics.
Dr. Park, as we met above, is the father of the family. Played with his trademark manic energy, Jeong’s character expressed a wide spectrum of human behavior throughout the pilot. Although initially depicted as an arrogant and narcissistic doctor, he eventually showed that he was capable of remorse, generosity, and humility by the end.
Suzy Nakamura plays Dr. Allison Park, wife of Ken Park and a psychiatrist. She plays the understanding mom who is open to giving her teenage daughter, Molly Park (Krista Marie Yu), more freedom as she is growing up, signified by passing her driver’s test. Her parenting style contrasts with Ken’s although they both eventually meet in the middle as a team, because “it’s got to be us against them!”
Molly spent the episode playing against her father, who, unlike his wife, is terrified now that she has a driver’s license. His overprotectiveness ends up getting him in trouble, as she proves herself to be more responsible than he turns out to be.
Finally, Albert Tsai (Trophy Wife) plays Dave Park, who was seen confidently practicing his mime performance for the school’s talent show, despite how much his dad tells him that it was a terrible idea. His youthful enthusiasm, quirkiness, and confidence is something every young kid should learn and keep throughout their life.
As for the quality of the premiere itself, the comedic lines came off typical and the plot might have been a bit predictable, but it was still entertaining to watch. For one thing, it is one of the few shows representing Asian-Americans that stray away from overt stereotypes. When watching it, it feels like you’re watching characters that you normally see on any other television sitcom, without focusing too much on their ethnicity and culture. It’s rather refreshing!